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PCSNY September Lecture
September 10, 2015 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
The inaugural PCSNY lecture will take place at 6 pm on Thursday, September 10th in the Lecture Hall of the Institute of Fine Arts, 1 East 78th Street at Fifth Avenue. A reception with wine and cheese will follow in the Loeb Room. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Emerita, CUNY Graduate Center / Baruch College
“Tradition and Innovation in the Deity Images of the Florentine Codex”
The General History of the Things of New Spain, popularly known as the Florentine Codex, is generally regarded as without peer in informing us about contact-period Nahua (Aztec) culture of Central Mexico. Launched by the Franciscan missionary, Bernardino de Sahagún in the mid 16th century, this encyclopedic work is notable for its comprehensive scope, use of native sources, and incorporation of knowledge systematically gleaned from indigenous elders. Another critical aspect of the friar’s unprecedented methodology, which I will give special attention to here, is the ongoing participation of a new generation of multilingual and bicultural converts trained by Franciscan missionaries in the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco. A school of higher learning for high-born indigenous youths, it was founded in 1536 under the sponsorship of the first viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, a short 15 years after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico.
My talk focuses on how Sahagún’s indigenous artists pictorially represented native deities and aspects of their cults in those books of the Florentine Codex (1-5 of 12) dealing specifically with native religion and ritual. What do their pictorial (and textual) choices reveal about how native sources were transformed, utilized in whole or in part and reassembled in new configurations, or, as also happened, ignored? In which ways did the artists, in fact, invent new types of native images to correlate with related texts by devising a method of presenting them in original compositions that adapted European representational modes and techniques? My investigation into these questions will highlight the unique contribution that the innovative indigenous artists and scribes made to the final form of the Spanish friar’s project––in effect, also claiming the Florentine Codex as their own.